Credit Unions Are… A Little Different

Credit unions are a little different. You always have been. And that’s a good thing–something to embrace and celebrate. Maybe you don’t know it yet, but it gets better.

We know it is possible to live in a world where putting people before profit is the norm. Credit unions have the opportunity to show the world how to do it. This is how it gets better—for credit unions, for people, for the world.

That may sound like a lofty, fluffy or unrealistic statement. But don’t let fear or disbelief slow you down. Time is of the essence. Right now, hundreds of thousands of people are imagining something better. These people will help you change the world. Momentum is on your side–use it!

Now is the time to truly own your cooperative principles, or someone else will!

Gar Alperovitz, economist and historian, in his latest book, What Then Must We Do? proposes a new economic system that is not based on corporate capitalism, not state socialism, but something else entirely —and something entirely American. Cooperative businesses fill a gap left by ‘efficient’ corporations and ‘ineffective’ government. They are organizations comprised of and for the people—getting back to our roots. Other financial institutions are taking notice of the ‘cooperative sweet spot’ and edging in on this opportunity in the marketplace. That’s a good thing–it means it’s real, but you’ve got to own it first!

Loudly tell your story of WHY you do what you do!

Once you’ve brushed up on your cooperative principles, and you believe credit unions are and should be different than banks, think about not just what makes you different, but why you care to be different. To say delivering excellent customer service is a credit union’s differentiator is selling them short —it’s simply a cost of entry that every financial institution can excel at. So what is it that credit unions care about in a way no other financial institution can? Your member-owners. They choose YOU because, yes, you give them better rates, higher yields and lower fees—but there is an intangible value that money has nothing to do with, and people seek it from you. People inherently want to do business with organizations that believe in the same things they believe in. To quote Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

Stop seeing each other as competition and use your collaborative powers to be stronger together!

Now that you know the principles on which your industry was founded and can articulate your unique credit union story to connect to those who care about what you care about, reach out to your fellow cooperators to grow the entire cooperative system. With just 10 percent market share for the credit union industry, it’s illogical to see the other credit union in town as your competitor. Encourage more cross-sector awareness, promotion and marketing of the cooperative model as a whole system. The more people who know about the advantages and differences of credit unions and cooperatives, the more member-owners every co-op will gain. Look at other niche markets and the successes they’ve had by working together—such as the craft beer industry.

Not too far from now, I see a new economy evolving out of the faltering, frustrating one today. I see more people, like me, actively choosing where to spend their dollars, favoring values-based decisions over monetary-based decisions. We are growing in numbers, gaining momentum, and refuse to accept things the way they are.

It’s really not that hard to change the world. If you remember your cooperative principles, tell your story about why you do what you do, and work together with others who want the same thing, big things will happen–and it will get better.

Holly Fearing

Holly Fearing

Holly lives and breathes social media; if you can’t find her IRL, try reaching out on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, and you’ll likely get her right away. ... Web: Details